Updated Jan 24, 2013 - 9:45 pm
T-Birds blitzed by Kelowna Rockets
By Andrew Eide
Coming into Thursday night's game the Kelowna Rockets had won 19 straight home games. For Seattle, the T-Birds knew they had their hands full from the outset in this one and Kelowna wasted no time ensuring win number 20. From the opening moments of the game they controlled every aspect of the ice and ended up cruising to a 8-0 win over the Thunderbirds. The Rockets had many big scorers but were led by the second straight hat trick from forward Carter Rigby.
The first period was the deciding period and within the first it was the first ten minutes. It was a ten minutes that saw Kelowna out-shoot Seattle 13-0, score three goals and hem the T-Birds down. Carter Rigby got the scoring going, with his first of the night, three minutes in as he beat Brandon Glover. That was followed by goals from Dylen McKinlay and Jesse Lees to build a 3-0 lead early.
"They beat us in every aspect of the game," head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. "They were hungrier, beat us offensively, defensively, winning battles and they wanted it more."
Seattle finally got a bit of a push in the second half of the period as the Alex Delnov line got things going with a nice shift that finally generated some offense. They then got a power play and while they didn't score they did generate some shots and got a little momentum. The period ended with the T-Birds being out-shot 16-8.
Any momentum that Seattle built at the end of the first period quickly evaporated as Rigby scored his second goal after a nice pass from behind the net. That goal came at 1:31 of the period and marked the end of the night for Brandon Glover, who was replaced for the second straight game by Danny Mumaugh. Seattle was never able to generate any energy or offense after that and watched as Kelowna added two more goals in the second period to build an insurmountable 6-0 lead. The Rockets would add two more in the third during garbage time, including Rigby's third of the night.
"Our intensity wasn't there," Konowalchuk said. "Our minds weren't there, we turned the puck over five or six times in the neutral zone (in the first) and you can't do that, especially against a good team.
Kelowna is definitely a good team. With their win they became the top scoring team in the WHL and have now pulled to within four points of the Portland Winterhawks for first place in the Western Conference. After getting blown out, Seattle will get another shot at Kelowna Friday night as the two teams will play again, this time back in Kent at the ShoWare Center.
With a game that was this ugly can the team just wipe this away and look forward?
"Well I'm glad we're playing tomorrow," Konowalchuk said. "I don't know that you wipe it away, there are some points to make with guys who weren't playing hard, we have no time to dwell too much on it as we play again tomorrow."
The task won't be any easier on Friday but the Thunderbirds will go into the game knowing that they have beaten the Rockets at the ShoWare Center before. On December 1st Seattle skated to a 4-1 victory over Kelowna. This is a somewhat different Rockets team however as they have caught fire since then and are now among the league's elite.
After two solid offensive games this past weekend Seattle went on the road and was out-scored 12-1 in two games.
The last Kelowna player to pick up back-to-back hat tricks was Dallas Stars' Jamie Benn.
Jesse Forsberg returned to the lineup on Thursday night for Seattle. He had missed the previous game recovering from an undisclosed injury suffered Sunday against Lethbridge.
Seattle has now played the most road games in the WHL this year. The good news is that they play much better at home and will have a home heavy schedule down the stretch.
Follow Andrew on twitter @andyeide
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